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Friday, September 02, 2005

The Selfishness of Human Nature

I want to get a few things off my chest. We here in America (and perhaps around the world, too) have been watching with amazement and horror at the events in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast area affected so horrifically by Hurricane Katrina. And I must admit that I'm not even able to really put my attention to it because I can't get my brain wrapped around what's going on down there.

First, there's the actual disaster caused by the hurricane. The destruction and devastation caused by a hurricane of this magnitude is just unbelievable. And if we allow it, the media will fill our minds with all kinds of images of destruction that it's a wonder life can go on anywhere! Certainly, it causes a lot of reflection and perspective. I am doing some freelance work for a client in Louisiana (his location is less than an hour from New Orleans, I believe), and even though I have heard through the grapevine that he and his family are fine, their business is shut down for a while and I am unable to reach him to discuss the project progress. That just feels really strange.

But the images that disturb me more than the natural disaster images, shocking as they are, are the images of the looting and chaos that are taking place there. I understand "survival mode", in that I believe that some people are stealing food and clothes because they feel like they have nothing else to survive. Stealing is still wrong, but I can at least comprehend that. What I can't understand is the people looting things like electronics, jewelry, etc. For those who like to argue that human nature is naturally "good", I would look at these looters and say, "I don't think so." And it doesn't appear to me that we are talking about a few isolated incidents, either. This looks like a growing problem. I'm not saying that everyone affected by this hurricane is acting on these evil temptations. But I am saying that I think we are seeing what human nature is all about. When push comes to shove, selfishness takes precedence over anything else.

On another thought regarding this hurricane and its effects, all of us here in America are facing the effects of it in the way of outrageously inflated gas prices. In the past week, we have watched prices per gallon spike by as much as 50 and 60 cents. And in the past month, the increase has been along the lines of $1.00. Everyone's talking about "gas shortage" as a result of the oil companies that have been shut down in the Gulf of Mexico, etc.

Now, I don't deny that there's a problem there with the supply and that there will be an effect from it. But my issue is that I don't believe that every cent of the increase in gas prices is a fair effect of what happened in the Gulf. This is anecdotal, I realize, but let me share with you an experience I had the other day when prices started to spike drastically.

I stopped at a gas station where the price was still "only" $2.68 a gallon to fill up before it got out of control. The station right across the street had just jumped 41 cents to be $2.99 a gallon. I walked into the store to buy something to drink (mostly because I wanted to see what the conversation was like inside), and as I walked in, I overheard one employee speaking to another employee about calling their manager. This was not a "private" conversation. It was loud enough for everyone in the store to hear. And the comment was this: "You better call him and tell him that we're 30 cents lower than everyone else in town. What are we waiting for?" And sure enough, I drove past that gas station 30 minutes later and saw they were now at $2.85 a gallon. By yesterday afternoon, they were also $2.99. (Now other gas stations are as high as $3.29, so the game will continue, I'm sure.)

Notice what the conversation was about. This is what really infuriated me. The comment was not, "We just got notified that our shipment today is going to cost us 50% more than usual." And it wasn't, "We're running low on fuel and we aren't sure when we'll be getting more in, so we better raise the price." No. The gist of it was, "Everyone else is now 30 cents higher. We could be making more money right now if we raise our prices."

It's comments like that which cause me to get very cynical at any suggestion that this increase in gas prices is a direct result of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico this week. No. To me, it's about greed, it's about selfishness, it's about taking advantage of a situation.

Hmmm...how about that. Both situations came back to a conclusion that it's about selfishness. Left to their own devices, human beings will naturally gravitate toward thinking of themselves. And therein lies the divide between those who are choosing to remain there, and those who choose to lay down their own desires for those of their Lord.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:3-8, NIV)

Until next time,

steve :)

3 comment(s):

Hey steve, that was a very influential piece of writing. I'm in grade 12 and currently working on a project about selfishness and how it is tied in with human nature and i found this article quite interesting. Thank you for your thoughts

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, January 08, 2006 3:10:00 PM  

Anonymous,

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad the essay was helpful for you.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Sunday, January 08, 2006 4:24:00 PM  

It sure was, but I have to keep on reasearching. I haven't quite gotten to the bottom of this whole issue of selfishness. There's too many aspects of it, and too many arguments can be made for it and against it, so it will be a tough one. But having people like you share thoughts and opinions makes it a tad bit easier and more worthwhile.

dimitris

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, January 08, 2006 11:20:00 PM  

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